One species is angling's strongest magnet

Published: 11/15/2007 12:16 AM

My cousin Len refuses to try something different for his annual vacation.

For decades he pointed his vehicle north and headed for the same northern Minnesota fishing resort where his late father used to take him when he was a kid. Len is infatuated with Minnesota walleyes. Nothing else piques his interest.

Len is proud with the fact that he'll take his trusty rod and reel in one of the resort's boats, along with some nightcrawlers, a small Little Joe Spinner, and then come back later in the day with his limit of eating-size walleyes.

Following the success of the famous Lindy Rig, Ron and Al Lindner built an impressive empire on the dorsal fins of walleyes. Their breakthrough magazine, The In-Fisherman, came to the forefront in the early 1970s as the result of discovering Midwest fishermen have an uncanny hunger to find and catch walleyes.

The brothers subsequently discovered they needed another vehicle to appeal to die-hard "walleyites," and they started their Professional Walleye Tournament Trail, closely followed by another magazine called the "Walleye Insider."

The big-box stores like Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas and Gander Mountain climbed aboard the movement by offering page-after-page in their catalogs of tackle and accessories strictly dedicated to walleye angling.

Of course the real truth was that the smaller, mom-and-pop stores had been quietly selling the same stuff to the very same buying public long before the big walleye rage took hold.

Cousin Len is one of the faithful who believes no other fish will ever give him as much pleasure and satisfying taste as the walleye. He's not alone in that belief.

Ontario fishing lodges invest big dollars to promote their walleye fishing. The same holds true for numerous Manitoba locales as well.

And even though monster northern pike are on the catching menu, too, a majority of American anglers going north seem to be addicted to hooking up with their dream fish.

Over the years, I've stood back a foot or two at outdoor sports show booths and watched fishermen questioning lodge owners about their place. I almost always hear the same question: "How's your walleye fishing; any big ones at your lake?" And in a manner of seconds the lodge person is spinning tales about the greatest walleye angling ever at his place.

Now Midwest lakes are getting ready to support thousands of fishermen ready to drill holes and slip into their ice shelters so they can continue their quest of catching more and bigger walleyes through the ice.

Hoffman Estates angler Woody Markowski loves to argue with me about our different fishing styles.

"You can have your smallmouth, pike and muskies. Just give me a limit of 2-pouund walleyes for the frying pan and I am a happy man," he declared. "There's nothing that can beat fresh or even a frozen walleye fillet once it's cooked up and served with little red potatoes and a salad. That's what this devotion is all about Jackson. You can't fight it."